February 16, 2013 (Davos, Switzerland) – The USA’s Andy Newell keeps skiing smarter and stronger landing his best finish in three seasons claiming fourth in the men’s grueling 1.5km CL Sprint World Cup in Davos. Alexey Poltoranin (Kaz), who was on mission in the final, triumphed by 5.49s over local star Dario Cologna (Sui) in second, while Italy’s Federico Pellegrino took home the bronze medal.
“Today I think I was able to ski pretty smart in the heats. In the quarters I was able to control the pace and surge when I wanted to which helped me stay out of trouble and move on easily. In the final Poltoranin set a hot pace for sure. He’s one of the best striders and his skis were really fast which made it tough to hang with him.
“I tried to come on hard on the second lap and challenge Dario and Pellegrino. It was really close on the climb and I thought the podium was in reach. In the end they just gapped me a little over the top. Skiing the corner well I was able to come back on them a little but it was too little too late,” shared Newell. “I’ve had quite a few 4th place finished on the world cup, and its really frustrating to be so close to the podium, but I’m fired up to give it a go at World Champs.” His stellar effort moved him into second in the World Cup sprint standings.
Canada’s Len Valjas, 24, also made the final as a Lucky Loser but ran out of gas ending up 6th, still a solid result for the Torontonian. This followed a gutsy comeback in his quarterfinal where he was caught behind a crash but powered himself back to the leaders to claim second and advance to the semis. There Valjas battled with Poltoranin and Newell coming third in the fastest heat where he earned a buy to the final as a Lucky Loser.
“The course is tough but really fun. It has one of the toughest descents on the World Cup and since it’s a two-lap race we have the privilege of skiing it twice per heat. It’s long compared to a normal sprint course, so you could see some of the pure sprinters having some issues recovering,” said Valjas in a post-race exchange w/Trax.
“In my 1/4 final I ran into some bad luck. I was sitting in 6th climbing the hill when a French skier fell on his face and took two Russians down with him. I was stuck behind these three guys with no room at all to move around. So I waited out the storm. Looking back at the video after the race I stood for 6 seconds patiently waiting for the guys to untangle their equipment so that we could get back racing again.
“By this time the two leaders had a huge lead on our group. In my head I was telling myself, well I’ll finish 3rd in the heat and just end up top-15 in the overall. When I came down into the lap lane my wax tech, Joel Knoff, was screaming at me telling me that I could catch the leaders. I really didn’t want to let him down so I attacked through the stadium and caught the leaders on the climb.
“I actually surprised myself with the acceleration, but deep down I knew that this effort would come back to haunt me later today. I passed one of the leaders on the downhill and was able to cruise into the finish 2nd in my heat. The semi final was pretty similar, I stayed at the back of the pack for the first lap and then attacked the climb on the second lap. I was just behind Newell at the line and finished in 3rd, but grabbed the lucky loser spot!
“The final is easy to explain. I had nothing left in the tank. The two hard heats left me with no energy to work with. I suffered through it and ended up 6th. Overall I’m happy and feel like my shape is good for World Champs next week,” he concluded.
“Len was at a complete standstill and I thought he was done,” commented Justin Wadsworth, head coach, Canadian Cross Country Ski Team in a team release. “What he did is something I have never seen before in World Cup cross-country skiing. I had coaches from around the world amazed. It shows he is in phenomenal shape.”
American Simi Hamilton was also on fire qualifying 6th to Newell’s 5th but ran into trouble on the first tight u-turn up the climb and was in catch-up mode.
“It was an interesting course for sure. Definitely not my favorite, but it made for great spectating as it was so compact and you could see everything from the stadium area. I felt good in the qualification. I picked parts of the course that I was skiing really well in training and tried to focus on hammering those parts on both laps. In my quarterfinal, I had a terrible start and was unable to carry my momentum around the uphill turn that I made good time on in the qualifier… just got stuck in traffic and it was extremely hard to get past people on such a technical and windy loop,” Hamilton shared.
“I am happy with where my speed is right now, though, and my fitness is feeling solid heading into World Champs. I’m psyched for the sprints in Val di Fiemme as I think that course will suit me better. The team skied well today, especially Andy and Kikkan and I think we are all in a good spot heading into the next couple of big weeks,” added Hamilton.
Canada’s Devon Kershaw was looking like his old self placing a strong second in his quarter final after qualifying 23rd. In his semi he lined up against Poltoranin, Newell and Valjas ending up 4th in the heat and 8th on the day. We could see his best skiing yet this season at the Worlds in Italy.
Canada’s Alex Harvey struggled to find his form following a big training block at altitude and qualified 39th while Phil Widmer was 46th. The USA’s Dakota Blackhorse-Von Jess was 52nd, fellow Yank Erik Bjornsen placed 66th, while Graham Nishikawa did not start.